Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Flight of the Valkyries

The Flight of the Valkyries
Peter Nicolai Arbo - Valkyrie, 1865

or: How We Got Janelle Asselin to STAPLE!

by Uncle Staple

Synergies - they're awesome. We have some great synergies working this year on the STAPLE! guest list. Most of these talented ladies already know each and are friends, some have collaborated together as well. For example, Kate Leth did all the scout badge designs for Lumberjanes, the comic by our other guests Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen and Shannon Watters.

Kate also started The Valkyries, an affiliation of women who work in comic shops, and some of those Valkyries helped us get Janelle Asselin to STAPLE! I shall explain.

Around the time of Denver Comic Con I saw that Janelle was doing a panel there called Hire This Woman, based on her Comics Alliance column of the same name, which included, among others, my friend Jamie Kinosian (who has also been featured in the column). I thought, especially since we are focusing on women in comics this year, that it would be awesome to get Janelle here to do the same panel with some Texas-based female creators. I asked Jamie to put me in touch with Janelle, which she kindly did.

Happily, Janelle was available that weekend and interested in the idea, we just had to find a way to cover her travel. STAPLE!'s usual sponsors (local comics shops Austin Books, Rogue's Gallery and Dragon's Lair) were already committed to bringing in our other guests, so I couldn't ask them for more help. I talked to a couple shops in Houston, and they weren't able to do it either, at least not in full.

So, I was chatting with my friend Meredith Nudo about this conundrum and she came up with the brilliant idea of reaching out to the Valkyries to ask for assistance. Meredith, among her many other credits, is a Valk herself, and knew that they would be excited about having Janelle at the show, and likely willing to chip in to help make it happen. As it turned out, she was right.

I asked her to take the lead and she diligently went about securing enough donations to completely pay for the cost of Janelle's flight, thereby making Janelle's appearance, and our own Hire This Woman panel possible.

These are the Valkyries (and a couple non-Valks) who contributed to the fund:

Meredith Nudo - Pop & Schlock Podcast
Annie Bulloch - 8thDimension Comics & Games
Alva Coto & Jessi Jordan - Third PlanetSci-Fi Superstore
Sarah Simes - @allaloam
Leia Calderon - SubCultured
Jesus Garza - SpaceCity Nerd
Danni Danger - WeirdGirls!
Bedrock City ComicCompany

I am deeply indebted to them and humbled by their willingness to help, and very touched by the sense of community and coming together to make this happen, which is part and parcel of what STAPLE! is all about. Connections, synergies, cooperation, community.

We reached out to that community and asked some of our guests, panelists, and friends to tell us what they felt was good about STAPLE!'s focus on women and diversity this year, and this is what they had to say:

Janelle Asselin, Comics Alliance: “I think the easy answer is that it matters because no one ever thinks twice about all the guests at a convention being guys, but diversity - even just having things like panel parity - is seen as something that requires an extensive amount of effort. Staple has put together a guest list that seems to excite attendees that just happens to be entirely female without what seems like a whole lot of effort. It’s a great model for other conventions who might be afraid of too much effort - not only is it not that much effort, but it also does nice things for your reputation.”  (
See bio for Janelle at:
Maria-Elisa Heg:  “It's really exciting to see so many amazing women getting the recognition they so richly deserve, and an honor to included alongside such talented individuals.”,

Jeanne Thornton: “No one can represent a group like a member of that group: if you want believable, recognizably human women in comics, then women must make those comics. The more humanity we have in the comics--the more comics exist where women can see ourselves legitimately represented, the more comics exist in which men can see women as subjects who have distinct experiences, ideas, and goals that maybe have nothing to do with said men--the better off everyone is going to be. A century overdue.”

C. M. Bratton: "It's somewhat mind-boggling how women have been portrayed throughout comic history - both in storylines and as creators. I read an article recently that spoke about how nearly all women employees of comic companies were fired when men came back from WWII. We're talking editors, writers, artists, colorists - you name it. And since then, the industry has never quite recovered in terms of equality between genders. But women liking and buying comics is nothing new at all. And women producing comics is just as normal, which is why we deserve equal respect."

C.M. was also recently interviewed by Janelle:
- See bios for these panelists at:

Meredith Nudo: "STAPLE!'s guest list this year reflects how women are by no definition a niche within the comics industry. We're readers, writers, artists, editors, journalists, organizers, publicists, retailers...we ARE comics. We've contributed since the beginning, but historically received less recognition."
- Meredith Nudo is the Comics Editor of Dork Shelf, event organizer at Third Planet Sci-Fi Superstore (comics shop in Houston), a podcaster, a blogger, a zinester, an editor, and general all around badass. She was instrumental in helping to crowd-fund Janelle Asselin’s appearance through the Valkyries. She'll be moderating Janelle's "Pitching Comics" panel at STAPLE!

Danni Danger, Weird Girls: “Indie comics are tricky game: pouring your creative energy to a project, working with limited resources, self-motivating? Just listing those things makes me tired. On the other hand, indie comics are some of the best indicators of what new, fresh outlooks readers want. This year's STAPLE! guest list reflects one of the industry’s biggest demands today: female creators. Bring on the ladies.
Part of what makes this year’s STAPLE! lineup so powerful for me is a small sampling of the collective voices of independent female creators are reaching out to the world, telling other women "I can do this and so can you." It's so much easier and less frightening when you watch other women like you doing it and changing the industry.
I like to think that we'll look back on this time as the beginning of the great emergence of talented women in this industry, and the idea of STAPLE! being a part of that, right here in my backyard gives me hope, and a good deal of pride.”